Automotive extruder Hi-Tech Profiles Inc. has broken ground on a new plant that will move the company into an evolving area of plastic tubing.
The Pawcatuck, Conn., company is investing $3.5 million to build the new facility and more than $500,000 for two new extruders, said Mark Ouellette, vice president of development. The plant, scheduled to open June 25, will nearly triple the firm's current space.
Hi-Tech will move its entire operation to the new, 68,800-square-foot site, also in Pawcatuck. The company's current facility has 24,000 square feet.
The expansion comes as Hi-Tech broadens its product line to begin making a four-layer fuel-filler neck. A filler neck sends fuel from a vehicle's fuel door to the gasoline tank.
The fuel-filler neck's construction was developed by resin supplier EMS-Chemie (North America) Inc. of Sumpter, S.C. Hi-Tech perfected the extrusion process and will begin producing parts early next year, Ouellette said.
The filler neck consists of an inner layer of conductive polybutylene terephthalate to prevent static fuel buildup, a permeation-barrier layer of PBT, an adhesive layer and an outer layer of nylon 12.
Most current plastic filler necks use fluoropolymers for the barrier layer, said Ramesh Iyer, automotive market manager for EMS-Chemie. The PBT barrier layer is cheaper and provides good permeation resistance, Iyer said.
Currently, only about 10 percent of fuel-filler necks worldwide are made of plastic, mainly in Europe, Iyer said. Most filler tubes are made of steel with a rubber connecting piece.
Still, the use of coextruded plastic is growing, he added. The nylon tubing offers both resistance from corrosion and greater design freedom for tight fuel spaces. The tubing weighs about 40 percent less than versions with steel, Iyer said.
``Right now, only a few companies extrude three or more layers of plastic [fuel-filler] tubing,'' Iyer said.
Hi-Tech has built its reputation as a maker of plastic liners for vehicle emergency brake cables and for window regulators. The 11-year-old firm serves Tier 1 suppliers such as Dura Automotive Systems Inc. and McKechnie plc.
When Hi-Tech moves to the new facility, the company will install two new Davis-Standard extrusion lines: one four-layer and one five-layer.
Currently, Hi-Tech has seven monolayer extrusion lines and one four-layer extrusion line.
The company would like to add a fourth shift with four to six more employees, Ouellette said. The company has 33 employees.
If growth warrants, Hi-Tech plans to add another 40,000 square feet to its plant in early 2000, Ouellette said.
The company recorded $5.5 million in 1998 sales, but projects sales will climb to about $7 million this year, Ouellette said.
The company ranked 182nd on Plastics News' list of pipe, profile and tubing extruders, with $3.8 million in 1997 sales.